1978 film “Mouth to Mouth” includes scenes of Melbourne anti-freeway protests

The recent anti-motorway protests in Melbourne are nothing new. In fact the very same area was subject to protests in the 1970s, when it was proposed to link the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway by way of an aboveground link, by converting Alexandra Parade to a freeway, ploughing through neighbourhoods in Collingwood, Carlton and Fitzroy.

Film and television can sometimes provide little glimpses of these events. M told me that on Sunday night, Channel 31 as part of their classic Australian film series, was showing 1978’s Mouth To Mouth“, about four youngsters trying to survive on Melbourne’s streets.

Anti-freeway protest, from "Mouth To Mouth" (1978)

Anti-freeway protest, from "Mouth To Mouth" (1978)

About 43 minutes in, there’s a scene were one of the characters looks out of a window and spots one of the anti-freeway protests. I assume it was staged for the film, as they are marching to an audience of nobody, but the placards look to be directly inspired by real life, one criticising the then-Premier — partly out of shot, but I think it says “What about your 1972 promise – No more freeways, Mr Hamer”.

Others such as “Melbourne needs a transport plan!” and “Freeways – Money for jams” wouldn’t be out of place today.

Anti-freeway protest, from "Mouth To Mouth" (1978)

Anti-freeway protest, from "Mouth To Mouth" (1978)

I missed the scene on Channel 31’s broadcast, but found the DVD for the bargain price of $5 plus $1.30 shipping on Umbrella Entertainment’s web site.

In other scenes you can glimpse bright orange trams, safety zones, rows and rows of telephone boxes, a red rattler train, the old Coles cafeteria, and numerous old cars. There’s also a scene set in a plush hotel — possibly the Southern Cross.

And apart from the scenery, the film itself isn’t bad either. Apparently it got three AFI nominations.

Salami tactics

It’s nice to know that right from the start, freeways have shown a consistent effectiveness for solving traffic problems:

Thus, the South Eastern Freeway was announced in 1958 as the first urban freeway in Victoria โ€“ the MMBW stating that it would provide a “clear run of four lanes” …

The four-lane freeway was completed from Punt Road to Burnley St, Burnley, in 1962 and received the F-80 route marker from Swan Street to MacRobertson Bridge (Grange Rd) in 1965.

Despite being constructed primarily to relieve local congestion in Alexandra Avenue, traffic conditions in the area generally worsened.

Main Roads Victoria web site, citing Max Lay’s Melbourne Miles, The Story of Melbourneโ€™s Roads (emphasis added)

The rest of the article is fascinating for how it describes the “salami tactics” (slice by slice) that brought about completion of the Monash Freeway, bit by bit over several decades, eventually just as its original designers intended.

Meanwhile in Dingley

Now just like the Monash before it, the F2 — uhh, I mean the Dingley Arterial is resuming its “salami tactics” creep towards freeway status. The government has announced what sounds like a widening of the South Road Extension.

Mr Pallas said the Government would direct new funding of $20 million into planning for the 6.4 kilometre four lane arterial road from Warrigal Road in Moorabbin to Westall Road in Springvale South.

This should be no big surprise. The South Road Extension is already suspiciously freeway-like, despite having been built as single-carriageway. As a rule, not many Melbourne arterial roads have sound barriers, no intersections to local streets, off-road bike paths, and pedestrian underpasses.

South Road Extension
(Pic from Nearmap.com)

Of course, the other thing that freeways have is grade-separated overpasses instead of traffic lights.

“Following community consultation, significant improvements have been made to the original proposals with an overpass of Cheltenham Road now planned in place of an intersection and traffic signals,” she [Member for Mordialloc, Janice Munt] said.

Yep, there you go. I won’t be too surprised when other intersections follow. Shame railway level crossing grade separations don’t happen so easily.

More salami, anyone?

Freeways, freeways, everywhere

Via Google’s archive of The Age, I found this, the 1969 freeway plan for Melbourne, with 1974 modifications (including a number of cuts).

1974: Proposed Melbourne freeways

It’s a little bit stylised, but according to the article, the plan was deliberately vague about which inner-suburban areas were to be demolished.

A monstrous plan, you might think. Freeways everywhere! But this didn’t all get built though, did it?

Oh yes it did. Well, most of it did — if not as freeways, then as road widening schemes (which also results in lots of houses being demolished, though not quite as many).

The northern section of the F2 got built as the Hume Freeway. It doesn’t extend down through Coburg, Clifton Hill and Richmond, but Hoddle Street has been steadily widened, and is Melbourne’s best-known traffic sewer, and they’re now talking about the possibility of grade-separating it, turning it into a pseudo-freeway.

I suspect the southern section of the F2 was intended to be Punt Road/Nepean Highway/South Road. Since then, much of that has been widened to 8 lanes plus service lanes, and as I recall, VicRoads still owns a row of houses along Punt Road for future widening. The outer-SE section is the suspiciously freeway-like South Road extension, and the Dingley Arterial, part of which is now under construction.

The F3 is the Western Ring Road.

F4 probably would have gone along Bell Street, much of which is now 6 lanes.

Part of the F5 has been built as the Northern Ring Road.

The northern part of the F6 hasn’t happened. The southern section is the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, and the Peninsula Link project (which last week bulldozed its way through part of the heritage-listed Westerfields estate).

The northern part of the F7 (or the F18) is still on the drawing board as the so-called “missing link”, to go through the Banyule Flats. (It’s “missing” because they went and built the rest of it, knowing that bit would be “missing”). The southern section would, I think, have included the very freeway-like Westall Road Extension.

The outer-eastern part of the F9 is the Healesville freeway, which was never built, but is still shown in the Melways as a proposed freeway launching itself from Springvale Road in Forest Hill, with a massive interchange with Eastlink in Wantirna. The inner section is the Citylink Burnley and Domain tunnels, as well as the Westgate Freeway.

The proposed freeway to remove the bottleneck created by the previous proposed freeway...The F12 looks to have been an upgrade of the Western Highway, but instead has morphed into the Deer Park bypass. The inner section was supposedly scrapped, but is back on the drawing board as “Westlink”, with today’s Age noting that it is the first stage of a larger road project first proposed by Sir Rod Eddington, that would ultimately join CityLink to the Eastern Freeway… which in turn will add to the pressure to build the “missing link”.

The F14 is the Tullamarine Freeway and Citylink in the northwest, and the Monash Freeway in the south. The middle bit would reflect the traffic sewer that is Kingsway, Queensway and Dandenong Road.

The F18 is the Greensborough Bypass/Highway.

The F19 is the Eastern Freeway, even including the little extra bit at the eastern end, the Ringwood bypass.

The F35 is Eastlink.

The F38 is the South Gippsland Freeway.

(Did I miss any? Did I mis-read the map?)

The article talks about a memo from then Country Roads Board boss Robert Donaldson, which notes:

…I believe we should go quietly on freeway matters at the moment, particularly inner area freeways.

And it talks about building all the outer-suburban ones, with the hope that:

they will create a public appetite for high-capacity roads to take traffic through inner-areas.

And that’s what they’ve done: built most of the outer-suburban freeways, and some of the inner ones, and the others have been done as road widening, so they’ve ended up as wide as freeways (but without the huge grade-separated interchanges, for the most part).

And after all this road building, there’s nary a traffic jam to be seen.

Oh, wait…